This year, Spring Festival (Chinese New Year) starts on February 12th . Sally Yu from RSM China shares the history of Spring Festival and the traditions behind it.
Spring Festival is the new year of the Chinese traditional calendar, which is the most significant festival in China and East Asia. The festival usually begins on the eve of the lunar New Year's Day and ends on the fifteenth day of the first month of the lunar calendar. The 15th of the first month is called the Lantern Festival, which is the official end of the Spring Festival.
春节（中国新年）是从今年的2月12号开始。来自RSM China的Sally Yu将向大家分享中国新年的历史由来和新年风俗传统。
The origin of the Spring Festival appears in a legend. In ancient China, there was once a monster called “Nian”. It had long tentacles and was incredibly fierce. Nian lived in the deep sea but would climb ashore on New Year's Eve, hunting livestock and killing humans. Every New Year's Eve, people would flee into the mountains to avoid the harm Nian brought. Until, on one New Year's Eve, an old beggar came to a village and told people how to drive away Nian. He revealed that Nian was afraid of red, fire and explosions. From then on people posted red couplets (two poetic lines written vertically in black ink on red paper and pasted on either side of the door) and set off firecrackers on every New Year’s Eve. This custom was spread widely, and it has become the most traditional festival among Chinese people.
Another interesting story about Spring Festival is “Say goodbye to Kitchen God”. The Kitchen God was responsible for the food in every household and knew about people’s life. People regarded the Kitchen God as a protector sent by the Jade Emperor. The Kitchen God oversaw the moral character of each household in every kitchen. He would go to heaven to make a report to the Jade Emperor a week before the Lunar New Year, evaluating every household’s performance during the whole year. The Jade Emperor would bless the family according to the report. To get more blessings, the housewife would put honey on the portrait of Kitchen God’s lip, and then burn the portrait, which meant sending the Kitchen God to heaven. The worship of the Kitchen God reflects people's yearning for a peaceful and beautiful life and it also warns people to obey the code of conduct, which is an important component of Chinese culture.
There are various festive ceremonies and activities during Spring Festival, such as dragon-lion dancing shows, firework displays, pasting spring couplets, worshipping the ancestors, flying Kongming lanterns, watching the Spring Festival Gala, welcoming the God of Wealth, and sending away hungry ghosts. Due to the vast territory of China, there are different customs and ways of celebrating activities in different areas, however, gathering and having a New Year’s Eve dinner is a common tradition throughout the country. The New Year's Eve dinner is regarded as the best meal of the year. The most common food served are dumplings which are shaped like gold ingots and represent the hope to attract wealth in the coming year. When making dumplings, people often put a coin in one random dumpling. Those who eat that dumpling will gain more wealth and fortune in the coming year, which may be the origin of fortune cookies.
Family reunion is the core of the Spring Festival. With the development of the economy, many people work and live in other cities but they will all return to their hometown to celebrate Spring Festival. This custom gave birth to a Guinness World Record. On the first day of the Lunar New Year there will be more than 2 billion people moving back and forth over 40 days (15 days before the festival and 25 days after the festival), accounting for 1/3 of the world's population. This movement is known as the largest annual human migration in the world. It is love for the family that supports this moving. However, due to the impact of the COVID-19, the range of the Spring Festival transport may be greatly reduced, and so for now, not returning to one’s hometown is also because of love and responsibility for the family.
A yearning for happiness and reunion
Spring Festival is the crystallization of traditional Chinese culture and a symbol of China. It is a festival of joy, harmony, and family reunion. It is not only a carnival but also an eternal spiritual pillar for Chinese people to express the yearning for happiness and reunion. It is a summary of a year of hard work, reflecting the diligence and wisdom of the Chinese people and a good wish for the coming year.
From a global perspective, the meaning of the Spring Festival has surpassed the range of China and has now a great global influence. The Spring Festival is known by the whole world with its profound cultural background and long history. The Chinese world also holds various celebrations during the Spring Festival globally. Although the nationalities and languages are different, the same cultural connotations are undoubtedly the easiest to arouse an emotional resonance. People all over the world are in a community with a shared future. In 2020, a pandemic suddenly swept the world. We have felt that humans’ fragility and strength are beyond our imagination. We are remaining strong in these challenging times. We have experienced and suffered many difficulties in 2020, but the new year is coming as scheduled. We are ready to fight the pandemic together and welcome back a better world in 2021.